An exhibition of material from the Monash University Library, Rare Book Collection




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112. “Garden number”, Australian Home Beautiful, 2 April 1934.

113. “He wanted his garden planned” by Olive Mellor, Australian Home Beautiful, October 1956.

114. “Garden planning” by Olive Mellor, Australian Home Beautiful, July 1961.


The most famous Australian garden designer, Edna Walling, regularly contributed articles to the Australian Home Beautiful, often providing sample plans for people to try.

In this special garden week issue, as well as providing “Two garden designs” (p. 30-31) she has an article on “Some Essentials of garden design” (p. 38) The issue also included an article, “Remodelling an old garden” by Olive Mellor. (p. 52)


Olive Mellor was the magazine’s garden journalist. In the October 1956 issue she designed a garden for new-homebuyers Mr. and Mrs. Pickering of East Ivanhoe, “the newest of Melbourne’s architect’s playgrounds.” (p. 36) As “this is the magazine of practical living,” Mrs. Mellor did an “on-site job”. The detailed plans were published in the article, calling for 114 different types of plants. The problem facing many young marrieds was how to soften and beautify the barren blocks on which their dream house had been built.


This was a typical suburban block 60 ft. by 130 ft. sloping to the front. Each section of it presented as problem – most of them just the problems that face any small block owner. The carefully planned solutions will help readers from Burnie to Broome. (p. 36)


When Mrs. Mellor re-visited the concept in 1961 she provided two plans, one for a “Conventional” garden, the other for a “Natural” garden of Australian natives.


The house shown is “an average two-bedroom home (S/T 639) selected from HB’s [i.e. Home Beautiful’s] Small Homes Service range of plans” (p. 33)

115. Concrete for amateurs and builders : an Australian home beautiful handbook. (Melbourne : United Press, 1935)

116. Eldridge, R. V. F.

Concrete and cement work : an Australian home beautiful handbook for the guidance of home workers and tradesmen / by R.V.F. Eldridge. (Melbourne : United Press, [1937])


These “Homecrafts” handbooks published by Australian Home Beautiful in the 1930s gave detailed instructions to the home handyman for building garden beds, drive-ways, “crazy pavements” and even swimming pools for their yards.


The Home Handyman


We have a good collection of manuals for the home handyman. This is not just a recent phenomenon, although of course the television shows such as Noni Hazlehurst’s “Better homes and gardens”, has made it into a national obsession.

117. The War-time handyman's book. ([Melbourne : Domus, 1943?])


Wartime shortages made the necessity of doing-it-yourself even more pressing.

118. The Solvol handy-home book. [Sydney? : J. Kitchen & Sons?, 194-?]


Solvol was the soap of choice for mechanics and all those who needed to remove grease. This book was issued in the post-war period and has a scene on the cover of the man working in his shed, and his wife bringing him a cup of tea.

119. Matthew, William Percival,

The practical home handyman : a comprehensive guide to constructional and repair work about the house / edited by W. P. Matthew. (Melbourne : United Press, [1949])


This is an encyclopaedic work. As well as the usual home carpentry and concreting jobs it includes chapters on how to fix appliances and how to maintain your car. The cover shows the man being helped by his daughter.


120. Australian picture handyman. (Melbourne : Colorgravure Publications (Herald & Weekly Times), [195-?])


This publication was heavily-illustrated and easier to follow. The end-papers are done in cartoon style with 32 versions of the handyman working on his house and in his back-yard (31 are working, the other is floating on his back in the ornamental pool)


121. “Real life renovations”, Australian home beautiful, May 1956.


This was the first in a series of articles on “how to brighten your home.” Among the many examples are two which involved renovation double-storey terraces. One of the stories is headed, “Al set for another century”, and involved the complete renovation of a “terrace-type house over 90 years old into a luxury modern home.” The house was in Avoca Street, Randwick. “Ron Well, slaughterman at a Sydney abattoirs chose the colors, fabrics, furnishings and designed the wrought iron,” (p. 38) he was the Captain of the Coogee Surf Life Saving Club and his fellow club-members helped him do the work over a six month period.


122. Maddocks, Cheryl.

Renovations and home maintenance for the handywoman / by Cheryl Maddocks and Mary Moody. (Cammeray, N.S.W. : Horwitz Grahame, 1982)


The introduction begins,


This book has been written to help and encourage practical and energetic women who want to tackle renovation and repair work that has traditionally only been handled by men. It is not intended as a sexist document; on the contrary, the advice given will be helpful to any person interested in home improvements.


The “Introduction” is a good summary of the reasons why people find it sensible to do their own repairs.


The cost of labour involved in hiring professional tradesmen is usually too great for most home owners, who find it necessary to do their own running repairs to prevent the house from deteriorating. There has also been a big swing towards doing up older homes and once again the labour costs are beyond the reach of most renovators. …


Modern power tools have played a big part in the home maintenance revolution, enabling even unskilled people to acquire expertise in various areas. Over the years these tools have become lighter, safer and cheaper – the reason why so many women have decided to “do-it-themselves.”


Magazines


It would be possible to do an entire exhibition on this subject using only magazines. We have good holdings of titles such as the Australian Home Beautiful. The changing styles of home design and interior decoration can be traced in exact detail by looking through the monthly issues.


Some issues have been displayed in appropriate spots in the exhibition, and have been noted in the text.


A selection of Australian Home Beautiful and Australian House and Garden are displayed on the screens and in the corridor cases. One of the more striking covers has the caption, “Hollywood by Moonlight”. It refers to an article, “Hollywood by sunlight” (p. 35-40) on the film stars’ houses. The influence of the movies on Australian house design can be seen, for example, in the 1930s fashion for Spanish Mission style homes. John O’Grady’s house, designed by himself and his wife in 1959, on top of a cliff overlooking the Georges Rives north of Sydney, and built with the royalties from They’re a weird mob, is featured on the cover of the August 1967 issue.


Laminex, the popular, new plastic covering for kitchen table and bench tops was one of the key products used to brighten homes in the 1950s and 1960s. It was made in Cheltenham, a suburb of Melbourne. Advertisements appeared in magazines throughout the period, one on display is from the Australian Home Beautiful, December 1961. Under the heading, “Surprise him! Do it yourself with Laminex!” we see a woman covering a bench-top as her husband returns from doing the grocery shopping.


Also on display are some Women’s Weeklies, Woman’s Days and English Picture Posts, as well as a Saturday Evening Post,18 July 1959. This shows a family about to lose their house to a freeway development.


The issues of Picture Post have stories on slum clearance and the housing problem. “Build high to clear the slums”, by Peter Eadie, Picture Post, 12 March 1955, p. 22-24, promotes the building of high-rise flats as the answer to re-locating people from slum housing. This of course was the direction followed by the Victorian Housing Commission.


“A ‘Picture Post’ guide to the housing jungle” by Fyfe Robertson, Picture Post, 29 October 1955, p. 14-15. 62, puts forward an argument that “rent control”, is only a short term benefit to the poor as it means landlords have no incentive to do running repairs to their properties.


An issue of the South Australian Homes & Gardens April 1940, is on display showing a typical small weatherboard home of the period. It also has an article by Edna Walling, on “Foundation planting” (p. 24-25, 52)


The Woman’s Day, 22 May 1950 has an article on a “Bachelor girl’s flat: it’s a dream says Elinor Ward.” The issue for 32 December 1951 shows a young couple on the cover, re-painting their kitchen in red and cream, promoting the “£750 prizes for our “Remodel your kitchen” competition”.


A.M. the Australian Magazine, 2 March 1954, has an article on “The war of the houses” by Gerald Stewart (p. 16-18) This deals with the problems architects were experiencing in having their designs approved by local councils. Two of Harry Seidler’s houses are shown. The one at Castlecrag initially had its plans rejected, because, to quote a letter from the Willoughby Council to Seidler, such a design was “not in the public interest.” They also disapproved of the internal lay-out, which was such that, “one could spit from the main bed-room into the living-room.” (p. 16)


The issue of Australian House and Garden, December 1963 includes an article by Joern Utzon, the designer of the Sydney Opera House, commenting on modern Sydney houses. He found them “ill-related” and “disharmonious”; too many different styles built together. He preferred housing built to form a community, and offered the example of a project he had designed in Denmark of 64 houses “in harmony with the movement of the landscape.” (p. 15)


Also on display are some of the advertisements which feature in the magazines. There is a series on “Feltex”, a carpet material which used very stylish graphic design for its advertisements on the back covers of Australian Home Beautiful, The Home Annual, and Man magazine from 1937 to 1940. Two issues of the Australian home beautiful (Jan. and Feb. 1939) have different advertisements for the 1939 Home and Building Exhibition, at the Melbourne Exhibition Building 17 February to 4 March, 1939. The model used in the design for the January 1939 advertisement was by the architectural firm of Leighton Irwin.


Architectural Model


We have on display a model of a Harold Desbrowe-Annear (1865-1933) house at 34 The Eyrie, Eaglemont. The model was built by Melbourne architect Peter Crone who now lives in the house and has allowed us to borrow the model for this exhibition.


Desbrowe Annear was born in Bendigo. Robin Boyd said of him, that he “was the first Australian-born architect to have the rebellious spirit which was necessary for one to be a pioneer of the modern movement in architecture.” (The walls around us / Robin Boyd, 1962, p. 52)


The Bain family of 69 Windella Street, Kew


123. [Original water-colour sketches of the Bain family life at 69 Windella Street, Kew between 1952 and 1958.]


These water-colours were sent back to England in letters to relatives. One of the sketches on display shows the famous Australian invention, the Hills Hoist.

The rotary clothes line-- a wonderful idea. Used everywhere here. They are of metal galvanised. Sunk well into the ground. You can heighten them & they whirl round in the wind. The makers fit them in situ, embedding them in a concrete foundation. This is the smallest size.

The sketch shows children swinging on the hoist while they are hanging out the clothes. It also shows a plan and elevation of the hoist, giving the measurements.

Other sketches show the family doing home improvements.


A model Hill’s Hoist is on display on top of the main cabinet, courtesy of Mick Stone, Camberwell Books.

1 Ien Ang and Michael Symonds, ‘Home, Displacement, Belonging: An Introduction’, Communal/Plural 5 (1997), p. v.

2 John Fiske, Bob Hodge and Graeme Turner, Myths of Oz: Reading Australian Popular Culture (Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 1987), p. 26.

3 Cited Fiske, Hodge and Turner, p. 27. It should be noted that at this point time, whatever their desires and aspirations, a greater number of Australians rented rather than owned their homes.

4 David Harris, ‘A Great Ring of Landlords’ in Verity Burgmann and Jenny Lee, eds. Making A Life, A People’s History of Australia Since 1788, (Ringwood: Penguin, 1988), p. 42.

5 Cited Fiske, Hodge and Turner, p. 27.

6 Cited in Susan Sheridan, Who Was That Woman? The Australian Women’s Weekly in the Postwar Years, (Sydney: UNSW Press, 2002), p. 79.

Exhibition catalogue: The Home





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